WASHINGTON -- Mitt Romney wrapped up his clouded three-nation tour Tuesday as the Democrats are rolling out their convention speakers -- with first lady Michelle Obama keynoting the first night.
Romney's trip to England, Israel and Poland seemed to do more harm than good because of gaffes and controversies. But is it real damage or just a bad patch? Too soon to tell because it's not known yet if the Obama team will use paid advertising to keep the Romney goofs in front of voters in battleground states.
The July jobs report comes out on Friday and if the numbers don't improve, the story switches back to President Barack Obama's handling of the economy, the enduring issue of this campaign -- not international relations.
Narratives can change fast.
Obama strategist Robert Gibbs -- a bit gleeful in his abundant criticism of Romney's trip -- said in a Tuesday conference call with reporters, "He certainly didn't prove to anyone that he passed the commander-in-chief test." Romney was an "embarrassing disaster."
"He may not have the discipline to handle those delicate diplomatic interactions that are required for the president of the United States. Romney was auditioning to be the leader of the free world and it was clear he was simply unable to represent America on the world stage," Gibbs said.
Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in reply to Gibbs, "Romney has laid out a foreign policy that will strengthen our interests, ensure our security, and let our friends know they have a partner in the White House."
Bad national press continued on the last day of the Romney trip. Traveling press spokesman Rich Gorka swore at reporters who shouted questions at Romney as he was getting into a car after visiting the Polish Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
"Show some respect," said Gorka. When two scribes complained that Romney was ignoring his traveling press -- he only took three questions from them on the trip -- Gorka said "Kiss my ass. This is a holy site for the Polish people. Show some respect."
Gorka had a point -- minus the cussing.
Romney also got in a jam with some Palestinian leaders when he said at a fund-raiser in Jerusalem that "culture" explains why the Israelis are more prosperous than their neighbors.
He defended his remarks in an article posted at the National Review and circulated by his campaign:
"But what exactly accounts for prosperity if not culture? In the case of the United States, it is a particular kind of culture that has made us the greatest economic power in the history of the earth."
In 2008, Mrs. Obama used the occasion of the Democratic Convention to redo her image. Four years later she is one of the most popular figures in the Obama administration and will kick off the opening night of the 2012 Democratic Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Tuesday, Sept. 4, convention officials announced Tuesday.
Also on the stage the first night: San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who will be the first Latino to keynote a Democratic convention.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel -- Obama's former chief of staff -- will have a speaking role. Former President Bill Clinton will deliver the prime-time nominating address on Wednesday, Sept. 5.
Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren gets a high-profile speaking assignment -- she will speak before Clinton -- in order to boost her race against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.).
Biden will speak at the Bank of America Stadium Sept. 6 before Obama accepts his second nomination.